How to Do Smartphone Cinematography and Shoot Cinematic Video

With current smartphones and their powerful cameras, you don’t necessarily need to buy expensive specialize gear to do cinematography. Your smartphone is capable enough to shoot an action-packed film with just some practice. Even if some people have amazing smartphones, they still cannot achieve a cinematic look in their videos because of insufficient knowledge of how to use their smartphone cameras properly.

In this article, we will discuss important tips and mention some tools that can help you get those smooth cinematic shots that you see in the movies. By the end of this article, you will have enough knowledge to shoot great video! Let’s get started.

Where to Buy
Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Reflector
Photography Photo Portrait Studio 600W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit
DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Must-Have Bundle
PEYOU Compatible Aluminum Phone Camera Tablet Tripod
Fantaseal 4-in-1 Smartphone
Xenvo iPhone Camera Lens Kit
Apexel Phone Photography Kit
Rode VideoMic Me
Lavalier Microphone

1. Get A Pro Camera App

Yes! Getting a pro camera app is extremely important if you are looking to achieve cinematic feel in your videos because your default camera app is tailored for everyone to use that is the reason everything is set on auto. Getting a 3rd party camera app will unlock the abilities to adjust the ISO, shutter speed, focus and many other aspects of the camera which will ultimately give you more control on your smartphone camera than ever.

Here are some recommended applications that you can install right now on your smartphone:

  • Filmic Pro (Android/iOS)
  • FlowMotion (Android/iOS)
  • Cinema FV-5 (Android)
  • Open Camera (Android)
  • Mavis- Pro Camera (iOS)

Using these applications, you can set the preferred settings according to the environment.

2. Consider the Importance of Lighting And Time of The Day

When shooting with a smartphone, you won’t normally have any extensive lighting options available, so it is better to utilize natural daylight if possible or really good indoor lighting. A good light opens up options later in the post-production process to enhance the video.

Now let’s talk about the importance of time of the day. A video shot under harsh bright sunlight can make the video overexposed and create a problem when color grading it, which is an important part of giving an ordinary video, a cinematic feel. The best time of day for shooting exterior shots is in the early morning or late afternoon/early evening. The ideal weather is overcast when the light is even and that allows you more of the day to shoot video. You can also consider using different types of light diffusers to achieve a good spreading of the light.

If you want to shoot indoor, you need to have a sufficient amount of even light that can provide you with proper exposure for shooting a cinematic video. It is recommended to invest in a good lighting option such as Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio.

3. Keep Your Smartphone Stable and Steady

This tip has nothing to do with your camera capability; it is all about how steady you keep your smartphone while shooting a video. Some phones provide optical stabilization that can help achieve smooth output but still, there will be a lot of movement when shooting an action-packed smartphone film that involves running, jumping and sliding etc., which will ultimately make the video shaky.

The tactic here is to use your knees to stabilize the smartphone and don’t move your phone but only your hand for smooth motion. It is a manual trick but you can also achieve stability and steadiness using some tools like a stabilizer or a gimbal etc.

Here are the recommended stabilizing options for your smartphone:

  • DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Kit

DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is one of the best gimbal stabilizers available in the market for your smartphone. It is all you need to make an action movie right from your smartphone without including that unprofessional shakiness. It has about 15 hours of battery life and provides you the ability to shoot a stable video no matter how fast you jump, move, or vibrate.

It is a kit that includes a gimbal, charging cable, carrying case, base, 12inch flex tripod, deluxe carrying case, and cleaning cloth. If you do not want the whole kit but just the gimbal, click here.

If you are shooting a still scene that doesn’t involve any kind of movement or less movement, then you can rely on a good tripod such as the PEYOU tripod. It is a versatile 50inch tripod that comes with a wireless remote and 2-in-1 mount holder that is excellent for your smartphone, tablet, and even a camera.

Use a tripod rather than shooting a still video with hands to avoid shaky results.

This is also a compact and lightweight stabilizer on which you can fix any smartphone, no matter it is an iPhone or some Android phone. If you want to capture extremely low angles without disturbing the overall quality of the video, you should invest in this low-angle shooting system that has a strong anti-loose cell phone clamp mount.

4. Master the Framing And Composition

This is one of the most crucial parts of shooting a video that most people don’t understand or simply decide to ignore. No matter how stable your shots are and how well-lit your video is, if it doesn’t have the right framing, angles, and composition then sorry to say, the final video will look just boring and unprofessional.

Look for symmetry, reflections, and interesting angles that aren’t cutting any relevant objects. For instance, if you are trying to shoot a person running, do not just zoom on his face, try to balance the ratio by showing the background environment and capturing the full person running. Whenever possible, you can add a stimulated shallow field of depth in your videos by framing foreground objects close to the lens so the background gets out of focus. In this way, your cinematography will look more interesting and appealing to the eyes. And yes, just NEVER shoot in portrait mode!

To capture with more versatility, you can also use various mobile lens kits such as Xenvo iPhone Camera Lens Kit Pro or Apexel Phone Photography Kit.

5. Do Some Color Grading/Correction

Even if you shoot a video with a professional camera, there will still be a need for color grading/correction. Color grading doesn’t mean to enhance the over-exposed or badly-shot videos but it means to make well-captured footage, the best.

You can use professional editing software to color grade your videos according to the scene.

Here is the best video editing software for PC:

  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC
  • Final Cut Pro X
  • FilmConvert (Plugin)
  • Colorista (Plugin)

Here are the best video editing applications for your smartphone:

  • 3DLUT mobile (Android/iOS)
  • Adobe Premiere Clip (Android/iOS)
  • KineMaster (Android/iOS)
  • Magisto (Android/iOS)
  • Filmic Pro (Android/iOS)

6. Film in the Highest Quality Possible

It is obvious to shoot in the highest quality possible when filming a pro video, right? But it is important to consider that the highest bit-rate should be selected, which can be set through any pro camera app such as Open Camera. More high quality means the more storage the video will chew up. So, it is better to shoot the videos according to your smartphone storage space.

7. Switch Your Phone to The Airplane Mode

It might sound weird, but it can be the best thing while shooting a cinematic sequence. This way you will not be disturbed by a text alert or a phone call. Plus, airplane mode will also help you save the battery when shooting in full HD quality.

8. Use an External Microphone

If your video will also include sound/voice then it is recommended that you opt for an external microphone to grab the sound in high quality because a good picture with bad sound ultimately makes the overall video worst. The built-in mic of your smartphone is not capable enough of capturing crystal-clear sound without noise especially when shooting from some distance. You can invest in a microphone like Rode VideoMic Me or a Lavalier Microphone to achieve the highest sound quality from your smartphone.

Good luck with getting started with your powerful smartphone camera.  With the right tools and tricks, you can shoot great video using just a smartphone!